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'BIRDS', LEOPARD CLASH POSTPONED

By SABELO GWEBU | 2021-10-16

SOCCER - THE mouthwatering clash between MTN Premier League champions Royal Leopard and Mbabane Swallows has been shifted to another date. This is because Leopard will be in the CAF Champions League action next Saturday, playing host to Angolan side Sagrada Esperanca at Mavuso Sports Centre when the 2021/22 MTN Premier League season finally gets underway.

Effectively, this means Swallows will be the only team not playing as the rest of the games will be spread across the country. "One cannot pre-empt the fixture until it is released but what is certain is that the league will start on the weekend of October 23-24 as announced," said Premier League of Eswatini Chief Operations Officer Petros Vilakati when reached.

PLE executive committee member Charles Matsebula reassured fans at Buhleni last Saturday during the ongoing countrywide vaccination campaign that the league will commence on October 23. Matsebula also assured fans that those vaccinated against COVID-19 will get to watch football at some stage in the upcoming season.

"The league will start on October 23 and we encourage football fans to continue to vaccinate as it will be a ticket to watch games at some point. As the PLE in collaboration with EFA and the Ministry of Health, we are looking at ways of a possible return to stadiums and I can safely say vaccinated fans will get to watch football at some point this season," Matsebula said.

Football has been played without fans since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country in March 2020. The 2020 Ingwenyama Cup final between Green Mamba and Mbabane Highlanders was the last time fans watched football in the country. The PLE is currently ensuring safety measures, which include vaccination of players, stakeholders and supporters.

The Buhleni vaccination campaign came after the one in Manzini and Nhlangano with the previous two roadshows seeing 1 200 people vaccinated. Vaccination moves to Siteki in the Lubombo region tomorrow. Football is working with the ministry of health to help the country reach its 60 per cent target of vaccination rollout within the population.

The target will enable government to ease further COVID-19 restrictions in sports including the return of spectators. The football organisation is also finalising negotiating a new three sponsorship year deal with MTN Eswatini. Meanwhile, Leopard left the country for Angola yesterday for the first leg encounter with the return game scheduled for next Saturday at Mavuso Sports Centre.

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